Benjamin Samuel Bloom (February 21, 1913 – September 13, 1999) was an American educational psychologist who examined and then restructured the approach to teaching, to maximise students’ performance.
His book, The Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: The Classification of Educational Goals (1956), set out a series of learning objectives that became known as Bloom’s taxonomy. It continues to impact the way educational curricula and teaching is structured to this day. Bloom’s taxonomy divided learning into three psychological domains – cognitive (processing information), affective (attitudes and feelings) and psychomotor (physical skills).
Within those domains, his taxonomy progressed from Lower Order Thinking Skills (LOTS) to Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS), through six levels: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and then evaluation. Primarily, Bloom’s model evolved education from a case of students robotically memorising taught information to a six-level pedagogic structure. Learners first remember information; then understand it; followed by applying it (in exercises); then analysing it and, finally, being able to evaluate it at a sophisticated level.
A taxonomy provides a framework for a structured organisation of a continuum. Bloom’s gives teachers a framework to understand complex cognitive development from lower-order skills to higher-order. This framework allows them to prioritise certain activities and materials to plan their lessons, e.g. a learner would memorise a fact before being able to analyse or evaluate it. Bloom’s taxonomy sits outside any one curriculum but is a useful guide for breaking curriculum requirements into actionable chunks for lesson planning and teaching goals. Likewise, different levels require their approach to assessment and Bloom’s can be used to check that content is assessed comprehensively as well as structure assessment according to specific methodologies.
Through a closer examination of Bloom’s original levels, we can gain a better understanding of how this framework operates.
Knowledge “involves the recall of specifics and universals, the recall of methods and processes, or the recall of a pattern, structure, or setting.” This level is concerned with covering factual information such as, e.g. terminology, historical facts, identifying the components of a computer, labelling body parts, etc. This level aims to allow the learner to recall information as needed. Cognitively, this is the lowest level of Bloom’s taxonomy. A teacher would use pedagogy such as lecturing, class-readings or listening to an audio clip. A formative assessment could be the well-loved class quiz while summative assessment could be fill-in-the-blank or definition type questions.
The second level in the taxonomy is comprehension, which “refers to a type of understanding or apprehension such that the individual knows what is being communicated and can make use of the material or idea being communicated without necessarily relating it to other material or seeing its fullest implications.” Comprehension is about understanding the meaning of information engagement with – the learner is now able to summarise or rewrite information. Cognitively, this is the first level of understanding and interpretation of data. Here a teacher could use class demonstrations or discussions, and assessment would consist of student presentations (formative) or explanation-type answers (summative).
The next level is application, which is the “use of abstractions in particular and concrete situations.” Here learners are using information to solve a particular problem that has one single answer by applying rules, concepts or theories. Cognitively, they are now applying knowledge for a specific purpose. Pedagogically a teacher could use case studies that demonstrate a method. A formative assessment could take the form of demonstrations with peer review, and summative assessment would involve learners, e.g. predicting the outcome of a situation.
Analysis is the “breakdown of a communication into its constituent elements or parts such that the relative hierarchy of ideas is made clear, and the relations between ideas expressed are made explicit.” Here the learner is dividing a situation or information into it’s parts and organisation to examine and understand it. Cognitively, the learner now understands both the content and structure of the information studies. The teacher could use simulations at this level while formative assessment could take the form of mental map type diagrams with summative assessment being essays or presentations.
The framework is now fulling the realm of higher-order thinking with synthesis, which involves the “putting together of elements and parts to form a whole.” At the level, learners are using prior knowledge and skill on new applications or developing a new product. At a cognitive level, the learner focuses on creativity and creation of new structures. For the synthesis level, a research lab or interviews with experts could be used pedagogically by the teacher. A formative assessment could be a small group discussion with other learners. In contrast, summative assessment of a learner could be by the creation of a piece of artwork or a portfolio of work.
The final level in the framework is evaluation, where the learner can give “judgments about the value of material and methods for given purposes.” Here the learner could use personal opinions or specific criteria to evaluate material, in the process fulfilling a given purpose instead of being right or wrong. As the highest cognitive level, the learner uses all other categories as well as their value judgements. A teacher could demonstrate an evaluation process for a research project based on specific criteria or hold a class debate. Debates could also be used for formative assessment while summative assessment could be a class presentation where the learner is required to assess or defend a particular idea or concept.
Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy
Bloom’s taxonomy was updated by former students of his in 2001 who published A Taxonomy for Teaching, Learning, and Assessment, and the updated version is now widely used in all spheres of education. In 2008, a variation of Bloom’s was created for use specifically in the modern, digitally-enabled classroom.
Bloom’s revised taxonomy is a multi-layered model for encouraging learning by progressing through six levels of increasing complexity. The six levels include Remembering, Understanding, Applying, Analysing, Evaluating and Creating. Bloom’s taxonomy encourages students to engage with knowledge at a deeper and more interactive level, working with what they are learning in the real-world sense, rather than just passively taking information on board.
The revised taxonomy puts knowledge at it’s core. The authors conceived of four types of knowledge. Factual knowledge is knowledge of details and terminology – the basic elements of a subject or topic. Next is conceptual knowledge which deals with classification and categories as well as models, theories and structures—procedural knowledge deals with subject-specific skills and methods, and the knowledge of when to use specific processes. Lastly, metacognitive knowledge focuses on self-knowledge and strategic knowledge. This understanding of the different types of knowledge is one of the critical differences in the revised framework.
While Bloom’s taxonomy arranges learning into six cognitive levels in order of hierarchy and complexity, it also sees each level as being interdependent on the other levels, with all levels contributing to the final, holistic learning outcome. This interdependence is why, while Bloom’s taxonomy is traditionally rendered as a pyramid or even an inverted pyramid, it is also rendered in other forms that place more emphasis on the interdependence of the levels.
The interdependence of Bloom’s different learning levels is articulated through logic:
- Before we can understand a concept, we must be able to remember it.
- Before we can apply the concept, we must be able to understand it.
- Before we analyse it, we must be able to apply it.
- Before we can evaluate its impact, we must have analysed it.
- Before we can create something based on the concept, we must have remembered, understood, applied, analysed and evaluated the concept.
The non-pyramid forms for expressing Bloom’s taxonomy indicate that learning may not always progress linearly up through the six levels. Instead, students might move back and forth between different levels depending on the learning situation, or they might spend more time in some levels of the taxonomy than in others. The human brain, by nature, tends to behave in a lateral manner rather than a set linear way.
What is Bloom’s digital taxonomy, and how is it being used?
Smartphones, PCs, laptops, tablets and smart devices. Apps, social media, Internet browsers and cloud storage. In the 21st century, every part of our lives is becoming increasingly impacted by digital technology, from home and the workplace to finance, healthcare and entertainment. By 2019, the rate of internet penetration across African countries averaged just under 40%, with the global average at 57%.
The rapid expansion of the Internet and digital technology has led education authorities worldwide to prioritise digital understanding for school students, as well as the hands-on use of digital technology in the classroom so that students will be able to navigate, or even work in, the digital landscape once they graduate. At the same time, digital technology is a direct aid to learning, which frees the acquisition of knowledge from the boundaries of the classroom’s four walls.
Bloom’s taxonomy has remained highly relevant through the decades, 2001’s revision aside. However, teacher, author and ICT enthusiast Andrew Churches realised the need for a version of Bloom’s that integrated with the modern, digitally-enabled classroom setting. His 2008 ‘Bloom’s digital taxonomy’ was not, as some people think, a revision of Bloom’s; all the fundamental properties of Bloom’s taxonomy remain as they were. Instead, it constitutes an evolution of Bloom’s, where the activities and outcomes associated with the six cognitive levels now move off paper and chalkboard to take on a digital form. The verbs associated with each level also now reflect actions taking place in the digital environment.
Finally, Bloom’s digital taxonomy incorporates a higher degree of collaborative learning, per the nature of the Internet, where students can converse and interact with each other and strangers via social media, online forums and chatrooms, surveys, blog platforms and more. Collaboration is a 21st-century skill that can be used as a mechanism to facilitate higher-order thinking and learning (Churches, 2001).
Here is how Bloom’s revised taxonomy structures the learning process, from the most basic up to the most sophisticated level.
The six levels of Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy
Remembering is the act of retrieving knowledge and can be used to produce things like definitions or lists. It is the lowest of the taxonomic levels. Still, it is essential for the learning process because students need to know information before they can engage with it at higher cognitive levels. Examples of Remembering include reciting the time’s table, naming different parts of the human anatomy, answering true or false questions, recalling critical events on a historical timeline or even naming the six cognitive levels of Bloom’s taxonomy. Remembering requires no understanding of the knowledge, only to have it accurately and thoroughly in mind.
With fast access to a vast quantity of information on the Internet, it is not the remembering of information that matters at this level of Bloom’s digital anatomy, so much as the knowledge of how to find it.
Learners should be able to retrieve knowledge from memory, list information and recognise material.
The next level in the taxonomic structure is understanding, which is defined as the construction of meaning and the building of relationships. Understanding can be demonstrated by, for example, grouping a list of different animals into the right categories (marine, avian, terrestrial, amphibian); explaining how one event on a historical timeline impacted on another, discussing the moral of a story or being able to explain why Bloom’s has different cognitive levels and the logic behind their hierarchy.
On the Internet, students would be looking for meaningful pieces of content and building relationships between them.
Learners should now be able to construct meaning from information. They can summarise material, classify information and predict outcomes.
The third level in Bloom’s taxonomy, Applying, marks a fundamental shift from the pre-Bloom’s learning era because it involves remembering what has been learnt, having a good understanding of the knowledge, and then being able to apply it to real-world exercises, challenges or situations. Examples of Applying in action could include making repairs to a computer’s components; role-playing mediation and conflict resolution between two warring countries; demonstrating the steps that take place in HIV counselling and testing, or presenting a talk on solutions to climate change.
In the digital context, it means using digital technology to make or do a range of different things: create posts, documents and presentations, or conduct online video or audio calls.
Learners should now be able to carry out a procedure, respond to questions and provide advice on given situations.
Analysing is the cognitive level where a student can take the knowledge they have remembered, understood and applied, then delve into that knowledge to make associations, discernments or comparisons. Analysing would mean a student can take complex information, and simplify it or summarise it. As other examples, a student would be able to give reasons why one historic military campaign failed and why another succeeded, or critically examine aspects of Bloom’s original taxonomy and explain why his students later updated them.
In the digital context, students can process data, divide it into parts, determine the relationships between the elements and encapsulate the overall purpose of their task or project.
Learners should now be able to make selections, differentiate between alternates or integrate ideas.
The fifth level in Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy is evaluation. This level requires the student to make criteria-based judgements through the processes of critiquing and checking. Evaluating could involve reading a book and writing a review on its merits; looking at the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and deciding which rights are more or less relevant to a given country; suggesting ways to introduce digital technology into the classroom environment, or making an informed judgement in a role-play of court case proceedings.
At the fifth taxonomic level, the student can justify and qualify a stand or decision, and make judgements based on criteria and standards, by checking and critiquing. In the digital domain, being able to qualify and evaluate social interactions credibly is a critical skill.
Here learners should be able to make judgements based on specific criteria, determine the relevance of results and reflect on their progress.
The final taxonomic level is concerned with taking various elements and creating a new, coherent product. This level draws on all of the other levels, with the student remembering, understanding and applying knowledge; analysing and evaluating outcomes and processes, and then constructing the end product, which may be either physical or conceptual. For example, designing and building a house out of wooden segments, and developing a 3D model of a house on a computer would both be examples of Creating. Another example would be a student taking the knowledge of Bloom’s taxonomy which they have remembered, understood, applied, analysed and evaluated, and creating a brand new model for the tiers of cognitive thinking and learning.
The digital environment allows the creative individual to originate anything from an audio track or animation to a short film or font design. Fundamentally, there is very little gate-keeping to what is created and posted online, like a music producer, movie studio or publishing agency; the only judge and jury in today’s digital world is the end consumer.
For this reason, ordinary people have managed to become Youtube stars and best-selling authors, thanks to the positive response of millions of Internet users. There is no more exciting place to create than online.
At this final element, the learner can pull together parts to create a coherent whole, assembly a team or group and create a learning portfolio.
How to use Bloom’s revised taxonomy in classroom activities
Level 1: Remembering
At this level in the digital context, the use of basic Internet searches is a relevant task for a student. On average Internet browser, Google receives over 63 000 searches per second. The student would need to be able to identify a legitimate search engine such as Google (www.google.com), Bing (www.bing.com) or Yahoo (www.yahoo.com) and understand how it works: that a keyword or phrase is entered into the text box, the search button is clicked, and the screen displays relevant, hyper-linked search results that, when clicked, take the student to further resources.
As an essential part of this task, the learner can identify the correct keywords or phrases to use to get the most relevant search results. This task tests students’ ability to find and access useful resources and is a skill that will be built on and used in all other levels. For the student, the search box is like a key that unlocks access to a world of digital information.
Other activities for Remembering
Social bookmarking is like bookmarking websites, except it happens with content inside social media platforms. Students are given a topic to work with, like conservation or adolescence. They register an account on Twitter (www.twitter.com) or Pinterest (www.pinterest.com). They enter their topic in the search box.
The results will be a mix of prominent conservation accounts, news content and multimedia content. The students ‘Like’ or share the posts they find most valuable, which adds the posts to their Twitter timeline, meaning they can find them again at any time by scrolling back through their timeline. Students using Pinterest would create a Pinterest board for their topic, run a search and then save their favourite images to their board for review later. Here’s what a Pinterest search for adolescence might bring up.
Websites like Kahoot (www.kahoot.com) and (www.socrative.com) allow teachers to create fun quizzes, exercises and games for students. Also look up Helpteaching (www.helpteaching.com) and EasyTestmaker (www.easytestmaker.com) for creating free multiple-choice tests, true or false exercises, quizzes and more, for students to complete online.
Flashcards are a fun and effective way to help students retain factual knowledge by triggering memory training through repetition. In printed form, they usually pose a question on one side of a card and show the answer on the other side. Nowadays, it’s easy to find or create digital flashcards for students via apps or websites like Brainscape (www.brainscape.com), Cram (www.cram.com) or Moodle (www.moodle.com).
Level 2: Understanding
A suitable digital learning activity at this level could be the bookmarking, labelling and categorising of searched Internet content using a service such as Google Bookmarks (www.google.com/bookmarks).
The student would go to the above address and open a Google account to start using the service. The student would open a second tab in their Internet browser and search for content relating to their topic – let’s use the example of global warming. They would run searches, then copy the links of websites or web articles relevant to their topic, and add them to their Google Bookmarks page. As each link is added to Google Bookmarks, the student would spend time adding a Title to it as well as a suitable Label; in this case let’s group links under the labels’ Latest status’, ‘Solutions’ and ‘Countries’. They would then select Sort by a tag to move their bookmarks into relevant categories.
In conducting this activity, the student would have begun building a digital library of content for themselves and worked out how to organise their digital ‘books’ into meaningful sections for future reference and a holistic view of their topic. Working with bookmarks is a skill that will significantly help student with their research for school projects.
NOTE ON GOOGLE ACCOUNTS
Opening a Google account immediately unlocks many more services to students: Google e-mail, Google Drive and more. Many online platforms outside of Google accept a Google e-mail address and password for sign-up, log-in and utilisation. It means that students can now actively operate the Internet, rather than just passively access it as they did at the Remembering level.
Other activities for understanding
Students can search social media sites like Twitter, Facebook or Youtube for a specific topic that interests them and then comment on different posts – possibly doing a couple of web searches first, to inform their response.
They can also create their posts, on Twitter, and add hashtags relating to their content, or tag other Twitter users who engage around the same topic. This broadens their understanding of social media association, reach and searchability.
Students can sign up to Reddit (www.reddit.com), which aggregates Internet content around topics, and the communities of Internet users who are interested in them. They can follow issues they are interested in, join communities and take part in ongoing discussions. They can also initiate a new conversation and engage with the responses other Reddit users post. By participating in topics in this way, the students will gain an understanding of the collaborative nature of the Internet.
Students can search for websites and news websites that relate to topics they are researching and subscribe to newsletters so that they can get relevant information sent straight to their e-mail inbox, which can be a Google e-mail associated with the Google account they used to access Google Bookmarks. Students can also create Google news alerts for topics they are working with, to have current, relevant news aggregated and –e-mailed to them daily.
Level 3: Applying
An excellent working exercise for this level would be the editing of a wiki page on Wikipedia (www.wikipedia.org). The student would register an editing account with Wikipedia and then search for an appropriate page to edit. This page could relate to a topic being discussed in class at the time, or a subject that the student chooses. It could even build on the Google Bookmarking exercise, and the topic researched there, from the Understanding level we covered previously.
In any case, the student should have relevant and original information to add to the chosen wiki page. Following the editing guidelines available from the Wikipedia website, the student would edit the page and add their new material to it, keeping a similar writing style to the rest of the article. If the student has any images, they could upload them and add them to the page. Once the page is edited, the student should then click save. In this activity, they will have used the material they generated, through independent research, and carried out an editorial procedure to add this to a wiki page.
With this activity in hand, students are now able to search the Internet (Remembering), save and organise relevant information (Understanding), retrieve it and use it to add to the Internet’s store of knowledge (Applying).
Other activities for Applying
Student can sign up to blogging sites like WordPress (www.wordpress.com), Wix (www.wix.com) or Penzu (www.penzu.com) and experiment with the basics of blog or journal construction, following the easy steps to create a simple blog, journal post or home page. In doing so, they will begin to understand where the Internet’s content comes from and how written communication is digitised and organised on the screen.
Students could use a podcasting site like Podbean (www.podbean.com) to create short podcasts about topics they have been working on and researching. Other students could log on and watch the podcasts.
Students could divide into pairs or small groups and sign up to use Skype (www.skype.com) or Zoom (www.zoom.com), then hold video conversations (if the computers have cameras) or audio discussions. Both of these platforms are widely used in the world of work.
Uploading and sharing
Again working in pairs or small groups, students could use WeTransfer (www.wetransfercom), Dropbox (www.dropbox.com) or Google Drive to share documents or images. This would see students having a chance to both upload and download content from these platforms; a vital process for moving material around via the Internet.
As a kind of meta-iteration of this level in Bloom’s digital taxonomy, the teacher could use organisational platforms like MeisterTask (www.meistertask.com) or Trello (www.trello.com) to assign this level’s activities to the students. Students would need to log their tasks as complete once done. In time, students could be granted admin rights to these platforms and practice how to assign tasks to other students, and monitor their progress.
Students could be tasked with entering pre-provided sets of data into Microsoft Excel spreadsheets and seeing the results that are generated. There are several videos on Youtube covering the basics of utilising Excel.
Level 4: Analysing
ACTIVITY: RUNNING A DIGITAL SURVEY
At this level, the use of an online survey tool such as Survey Monkey (www.surveymonkey.com) would be an appropriate learning activity. The student would register an account with Survey Monkey and, using the online tools provided, set up a simple survey. The student would decide on a survey topic and write several questions. These could either be open-ended questions that would require the respondent to input an answer, or multiple choice or true/false questions, which would need the student to generate possible solutions.
An interesting topic might be jobs that are going to become less, or more, relevant in the future digital economy.
Setting a closing date for the Survey, the student would then invite respondents to participate. These respondents could be the student’s classmates or a more comprehensive survey group. Once the survey period has ended, the student would then use the tools available in Survey Monkey to organise the results – comparing responses, dividing respondents into groups and deciding how these groups relate to or contrast with each other in terms of the overall survey topic. The student could also explore other ways to survey digitally, such as:
- Sending out a group e-mail, then dividing responses into different e-mail folders.
- Sending out a group e-mail and asking respondents to load their responses to Google Drive, where the student can read them and save them into different folders.
- Using the WhatsApp application on a smartphone to set up a survey group and track responses.
Other activities for Analysing
Digital analytics is a useful way to assess any website’s, or social media feed’s, performance. The class could experiment with analytics.twitter.com to determine engagements and responses to various Twitter posts. If the school has a website, the students could watch the teacher integrate google.com/analytics into it, and then independently examine how Internet users are engaging with the site – which pages perform the best, where users are from, and much more. Further, they could catalogue and organise the data provided by Analytics into an Excel spreadsheet.
The student could write a blog post expressing their viewpoint on a topic on Medium (www.medium.com) and invite classmates or a broader group to post comments and responses underneath the post.
Level 5: Evaluating
A task the student could do at this level would be moderating and responding to comments made on a blog post or social media post, as opposed to just analysing and organising the responses. In the digital environment, there is a multitude of opportunities for discussion and ease of participation through comments and forum posting. Not all comments or respondents add value to an online discussion, and the student must be able to critically decide what is or isn’t relevant, and respond appropriately.
Using a free blogging platform such as Medium or WordPress (www.wordpress.com), the student would write a blog post on a subject of their choosing, then encourage comments and interaction with the ideas presented in the blog post. The student will be alerted via e-mail when a new comment has been made. They will need to evaluate each comment in context and decide if it contributes to the discussion and debate. If it does, they can comment publicly visible using the tools supplied by WordPress.
They will need to generate a critical response to the comment and post it as a reply in the comment section of the blog post. It should be constructed to respond to the feedback and the topic of the blog post. If the comment is not appropriate, then they should delete it using the tools provided. Through this task, the student gains the skill to evaluate comments on a blog post using a set of criteria (e.g. does it contribute to the online discussion; does it make a valid point), and respond to them in turn, in a way that furthers discussion around the topic.
Other activities for Evaluating
Students could be tasked to write an essay on a topic using Microsoft Word, or Google Docs (docs.google.com), which can be shared with other students directly from Google Drive. In pairs, the students could then read and critique each other’s work, tracking changes as they go.
Level 6: Creating
A suitable activity the student could participate in at this level is the publishing and distribution of a short ebook through the Amazon platform (www.amazon.com). Deciding on a topic, the student would research and write the text for the ebook. They would need to structure the text coherently, possibly dividing it into sections or chapters. They could also choose to create a volume of poetry or a collection of fictional short stories.
Once complete, the student would decide whether the ebook needs photographs or illustrations to complement the text. If so, they would need to source or generate these.
Using an application such as Microsoft Word, the student would lay out the text, formatting chapter or section headings and deciding on fonts to use. At this point, they would also add any images they have decided to use. Once complete, the document would be saved.
The student would create an account at the Amazon Direct Publishing website, input their ebook’s metadata (author name, description, etc.) and upload the Microsoft Word version of their manuscript.
They would be able to create a cover using the tools Amazon provides and decide on a price for their ebook. The Amazon website’s software would then convert these elements into an ebook format that can be read on the Kindle e-reader. Once reviewed by a teacher, the ebook could be made available for sale. Through this activity, the student learns how to take several different online elements and create a coherent product. They would have planned the process of content creation and, using online tools, created something new.
Other activities for Creating
The student could choose an issue to raise awareness about – like rhino conservation or road safety. They could then register to use the free services of sites like Unsplash (www.unsplash.com) and Canva (www.canva.com), and create a poster by:
- Searching and downloading their chosen Unsplash image(s).
- Choosing a free poster template on Canva.
- Uploading their Unsplash image(s) to Canva.
- Clicking on them to add them into the template.
- Adding text, choosing fonts, backgrounds and other elements.
- Downloading the finished poster.
With smartphone technology improving all the time, it is already technically possible to make an original short film on the phone. Students with either an Android or iOS smartphone could film a video on their phone – like a tour of the school perhaps, or a day in the life of the community – and then use Kinemaster’s (www.kinemaster.com) wide range of editing tools to add text, music, layers and effects.
A Gantt chart is a great way to plan out and track progress on a project spanning a significant time-frame and involving several different contributors. There are many various programmes and platforms to build a Gantt chart with, like Google Sheets, Microsoft Excel or TeamGantt (www.teamgantt.com). Students could decide on a fictional project, such as planting a food garden, building a working windmill or staging a theatrical production. They would sign up at the above website, and be able to access templates and instructions for making a Gantt chart for their project.
The website Edublogs (www.edublogs.org) offers students the chance to experiment with free basic blog site building, using different elements and themes and uploading and interacting with content. The teacher could activate Edublogs for students to work on in groups. The platform has privacy options and is ‘student safe’, and the teacher could monitor the kind of content and interactions taking place on the groups’ blogsites.